As both an Arsenal fan and a longtime Los Angeles Galaxy season ticket holder, I have been asked how I reconcile my support for two different teams. I always reply that supporting Arsenal and the Galaxy is like having two friends who are destined never to meet. This Saturday at the Emirates, that quip will be forever buried as my beloved Arsenal takes on Everton who will likely feature Landon Donovan, the captain of my beloved Galaxy.
For the Gunners, the Everton game is critical, but every game is critical when you are in the trophy hunt. Arsenal is four points behind Chelsea with a game in hand that was cancelled this past Wednesday because of snow in London. Arsenal plays Everton at home and Bolton away before they begin their most critical fortnight of games against Aston Villa, Man U, Chelsea and Liverpool. Before they begin trying to run through that gauntlet, they need to make sure they get full points from Everton and Bolton.
For Donovan, he only has 10 weeks in England, so every game will be scrutinized. English fans mostly know Donovan as the wanker who said lots of terrible things about David Beckham. To the press in England, Clint Dempsey is the best American player, and Donovan is a three time European washout who cannot possibly be all that good if he is still playing in the MLS.
If Donovan does get the nod on Saturday, he will be well positioned to exceed those meager expectations. Arsenal slaughtered Everton 6-1 opening day at Goodison Park, and few would be expecting great things from the Toffees in the reverse fixture. With only a handful of training sessions with his new team, most would not expect Donovan to be completely on song with his teammates.
And yet, the Arsenal defense has had its hiccups, and has seemed vulnerable to speed all season. The Gunners have only kept six clean sheets in their 19 EPL games – a fairly low amount for a team that is battling at the top of the table. Arsenal has a woeful lack of depth in the center back position. Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas have played in just about every game, including last week’s FA Cup game against West Ham, and they have let several players get behind them for goals, including Alessandro Diamanti last week at Upton Park. If Donovan can make some clever runs off the ball and press his opposition when he does have the ball, he could get some opportunities to score.
Unfortunately, American fans will have to follow this game through text updates and try to catch the highlights on youtube later Saturday afternoon. With Setanta USA going down the tubes, they have removed this game from their schedule, and it does not seem that it will be broadcast anywhere in the States. As an Arsenal and Galaxy fan, I will have to watch boring text scroll across my screen to see how Arsenal overcame a Donovan brace to win 3-2.